Author Archives: Joshua Prince, Esq.

About Joshua Prince, Esq.

With our 2nd Amendment rights being attacked at both the Federal and State level, and the ATF (Burea of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) trying to close down FFLs (Federal Firearms Licensees) for minor infractions while making FFLs the scapegoat when the ATF's records are inaccurate, I want to taking this opportunity to introduce myself. I am one of only a handful of attorneys across the US that practices in the niche area of law known as firearms law. I decided to concentrate my legal practice on firearms law not only because I am a shooter and firearms enthusiast, but also to ensure that our inalienable Right to Keep and Bear Arms is never encroached upon. I handle cases at the Federal and State level for both FFLs and individuals. At the federal and state levels for individuals, I actively defend the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution and Section 21 of the PA Constitution, as well as, help individuals with: - License to Carry Firearms Denials; - Challenges to Erroneous PICS Denials; - Relief from Firearms Disabilities; - Estate Planning Advice; - Gun/NFA Trusts; and - 42 USC 1983 Actions for Deprivation of Civil Rights At both the state and federal levels, I represent FFLs and SOTs throughout Pennsylvania and the US regarding: - ATF Compliance Inspections; - Warning Letters and Hearings; - FFL Revocations; - Corporate Structure Advice - Indoor/Outdoor Range Implementation; and - Forfeiture Proceedings In following my love for firearms and firearms law, I have taught several Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars on Firearms in Estates and Trusts and Firearms Law 101 for several Bar Associations, including Berks, Cumberland, and Dauphin Counties. I also planned and taught several Firearms in Estates CLE classes for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI). While at Widener Law School, I was a member of the Widener Law Journal. I wrote an article on the Inaccuracy of the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR). I also had an article published on Fee Disputes in Workers Compensation cases in the Widener Law Journal, Volume 18, No. 2. You can often find me posting on several internet forums, including Subguns, Uzitalk, AR15, and PAFOA. I also hold PA Firearms Law classes for local ranges to inform the public on the firearm laws of the Commonwealth. Following in my father's footsteps, I am also a Board member for the Pottstown Police Athletic League (PAL).

Franklin County Sheriff Contends He’s Immune From Judicial Oversight

In a brief filed before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Franklin County Sheriff has taken an eerily Orwellian position that he is immune from judicial oversight and cannot be held liable for his actions – even those explicitly violating state law.

As our viewers are aware, on May 20, 2016, the Commonwealth Court issued a monumental decision in  John Doe, et al., v. Franklin County, et al., 1634 C.D. 2015 regarding the confidentiality of license to carry firearms (LTCF) applicant information, wherein, among other things, it held that the disclosure of LTCF applicant information through the use of un-enveloped postcards was a breach of the confidentiality provision found in 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(i).

As a result, Franklin County, former Franklin County Sheriff Dane Anthony, and the other defendants, appealed the decision to the PA Supreme Court, where they asked the Court to grant review of the entire Commonwealth Court’s decision, including as to whether the use of un-enveloped postcards constituted a public disclosure. On December 21, 2016, the PA Supreme Court generally denied their request to review the decision; however, it agreed to consider “[w]hether the General Assembly intended to abrogate high public official immunity when it enacted 18 Pa. C.S. §6111(i)” in relation to Defendant former Franklin Co Sheriff Dane Anthony.

On January 30, 2017, the Defendants filed their brief contending that former Sheriff Dane Anthony is entitled to high public official immunity and that sheriffs “should not be burdened with monstrous litigation and damage exposure about possible incidental viewing of a postcard years ago.” More disconcerting, they argue that the Commonwealth Court’s decision “threatens to gut absolute immunity for public officials into no real protection at all.” (Of course, as discussed below, they seem to ignore the fact that high public official immunity was seemingly abolished by the PA Supreme Court in the 1970’s and even if it wasn’t, it is unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution). However, it is their main argument that is absolutely Orwellian:

statements or acts of high public officials which are made in the course of and within the scope of their official powers or duties give them complete immunity from legal redress. (emphasis added)

It would seem that this position goes directly contrary to the oath declared, pursuant to Article VI, Section 3, by all Sheriffs in Pennsylvania, especially in light of Article 1, Section 11. The oath set-forth in Article VI declares:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.

Contrary to the oath, the Sheriff’s position is directly in conflict with Article 1, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which declares that “[s]uits may be brought against the Commonwealth in such manner, in such courts and in such cases as the Legislature may by law direct,” since high public official immunity is common law (e.g. judicially created) and has never been enacted by the General Assembly. (For those reviewing the docket, as Franklin County, et al., failed to timely submit their reproduced record, they were required to petition the Court to allow them to untimely file their reproduced record, which the Court granted).

Surprisingly, the PA Sheriff’s Association filed an Amicus Curiae brief contending that sheriffs in Pennsylvania should be entitled to high public official immunity and immune from judicial review.

In response, on February 2, 2017, we filed our brief explaining that (1) high public official immunity was seemingly abolished by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision Ayala v. Phila. Bd. of Pub. Educ., where it abolished governmental immunity; (2) high public official immunity is inapplicable to 18 Pa.C.S. 6111; and (3) high public official immunity is unconstitutional.

Yesterday, the Defendants filed their reply brief , which appears to be designed to merely confuse the Justices into believing they actually have an argument.

The Court will now decide whether to hold oral argument on the matter or merely issue a decision based on the briefs. We’ll keep you apprised of further action in this matter.

If you or someone you know has had their confidential license to carry firearms applicant information disclosed, contact us today to discuss today to discuss YOUR rights. Dedicated to the protection of your Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 21 rights, we are YOUR PA Firearms Lawyers.

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Filed under Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

The Goslin Decision’s Impact on Possessing Weapons on School Property

As our viewers are aware, earlier, we posted about the Superior Court’s monumental decision in Commonwealth v Goslin, where the court, en banc, held that the “plain meaning of Section 912(c) provides two separate defenses: possessing and using a weapon on school property ‘in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity’ as well as possessing ‘for other lawful purpose’.” (emphasis added)

But what does this mean? What is the impact? And why did the court remand the case to the trial court for a new trial?

First, it is extremely important to note that although this is an extremely favorable decision, the law provides that either of the separate two defenses are just that – defenses. Specifically, Section 912(c) provides:

It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.

This means that the Commonwealth can charge you and force you to raise Section 912(c) as a defense and be acquitted by way of the defense, if you are legally entitled to the defense.

But what does that mean? Well, everyone wants bright line rules but unfortunately, in most cases, there aren’t bright line rules, when you wade into the minutiae of scenarios that can arise. So, let’s talk about what are the bright line rules from this decision:

  1. If you are prohibited from possessing a certain type of weapon (such as firearms or stun guns), you cannot utilize this defense, as you would not be in lawful possession of the weapon and therefore would not have a lawful purpose.
  2. If one is required to have special licensing to possess the weapon (such as a license to carry firearms (“LTCF”)) and you do not have an LTCF, you cannot utilize this defense, as you would not be in lawful possession of the weapon and therefore would not have a lawful purpose.
  3. If you intend to commit or actually do use your firearm to commit a crime on school grounds, you cannot utilize this defense, as you would have an unlawful purpose.

But, what if I am not prohibited from possessing a certain type of weapon, have the requisite licensing (if any) to possess the weapon and am carrying the weapon for purposes of self-defense, can I possess the weapon on school grounds?

Based on this decision (and other arguments under the PA and US Constitutions), you would be entitled to the defense found in Section 912(c); however, as mentioned above, nothing would prevent the District Attorney from charging you and forcing you to prove your defense. Now, that being said, few law enforcement officers are going to want to charge someone in this situation, because if they do, and the charges are dismissed or you are acquitted, you can bring a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against them for violating your rights.

Ok, but what if I need to utilize the weapon I am carrying on school grounds, let’s say for purpose of self-defense?

Here, while there are great arguments – arguments that we raised in our briefing – the decision does not address whether someone possessing a weapon for “other lawful purposes” may use it. In fact, a significant portion of my argument was that the General Assembly utilized different verbs for the different clauses. Specifically, you will see that the General Assembly permitted both use and possession in relation to a “lawful supervised school activity or course” (due to school shooting teams, Boy Scouts…etc, which actively possess and use weapons on school grounds) but only specified possession in relation to “other lawful purpose.” Moreover, as Mr. Goslin was not required to use the pocketknife that he lawfully possessed, this was not an issue before the court. That being said, if an individual, who possessed the weapon for purposes of self-defense, later used that weapon on school grounds for purposes of self-defense, there are great constitutional and statutory arguments that one can make to permit the use of the weapon in that limited circumstance.

Accordingly, the key points are that anyone lawfully possessing a weapon on school grounds ensure that they are possessing it for a lawful purpose (e.g. self-defense) and they understand that they can be charged with violating Section 912 and forced to argue the defense under Section 912(c).

So why did the Superior Court remand this case to the trial court?

Well, although the record establishes that Mr. Goslin lawfully possessed his knife, the trial court never addressed whether he lawfully possessed his knife, as it held that he wasn’t entitled to the defense since his possession of the knife was not related to a school activity. It is for that reason that the Superior Court remanded it back to the trial for a new trial. However, since posting our article on the decision, the District Attorney reached out to me and advised that they do not plan to appeal and intend to nolle prosequi (in essence, dismiss) the charges against Mr. Goslin. Accordingly, Mr. Goslin will not have go through another trial or file additional motions.

As our readers are aware, unfortunately,  Mr. Goslin was not in a position to fund this litigation. Therefore, if you are in a position to be able to help fund this monumental victory, Mr. Goslin would greatly appreciate donations which can be made online through our Firm’s escrow account here – https://secure.lawpay.com/pages/princelaw/trust. Simply place Goslin Appeal in the Matter No/Client Name box.

If you or someone you know has been charged with possessing a weapon on school grounds, contact us today to discuss YOUR rights.

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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Chief Counsel Prince Secures MONUMENTAL Decision from the Superior Court, en banc, regarding Possession of Weapons on School Property

Today, the Superior Court, en banc, issued its decision in Commonwealth v. Goslin, 1114 MDA 2015, regarding whether an individual is entitled to claim the defense of “other lawful purpose” when carrying a weapon on school grounds.

As our viewers are aware, after the original devastating decision was issued by the Superior Court holding that one could not possess a weapon on school grounds, unless it was related to a school activity, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince contacted Mr. Goslin and offered to represent him in petitioning the Superior Court to reconsider his case, en banc, and permit re-briefing and oral argument. After filing the motion for reconsideration, the Superior Court vacated its prior decision, granted reconsideration, en banc, and permitted the parties to re-brief the matter and to argue the matter at oral argument. Thereafter, Chief Counsel Prince re-briefed the matter and attended oral argument.

Today, the Superior Court, en banc, without any dissenting opinions, filed its decision vacating the trial court’s finding of guilt and declaring:

We disagree with the trial court’s conclusion that the language of Section 912(c) is vague.
Rather, we conclude that, in order to ascertain the meaning of Section 912(c), we need not look beyond its plain language. The plain meaning of Section 912(c) provides two separate defenses: possessing and using a weapon on school property “in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity” as well as possessing “for other lawful purpose.” (emphasis added, as Chief Counsel Prince specifically argued this exact construction and noted the different verbs utilized related to the different provisions)

Consistent therewith, the court declared that:

for purposes of the instant case, the plain meaning of the phrase “other lawful purpose” is an aim or goal different from, or in addition to, an aim or goal described in the first clause of Section 912(c), i.e., in conjunction with “a lawful supervised school activity or course.” The second clause of this subsection, thus, serves as a catchall provision.

Contrary to the trial court’s conclusion, the “other lawful purpose” language does not restrict the defense provided in Section 912(c). Instead, the phrase does just the opposite: it expands the defense to include any additional or different lawful reason not otherwise mentioned in the first clause of Section 912(c), regardless of whether it is school-related. (emphasis added, as Chief Counsel Prince additionally argued this construction of the statute).

The Superior Court also included a footnote declaring:

Although we are concerned about individuals possessing weapons on school property, we are bound by the broad defense that the legislature has provided defendants in such cases.

As our readers are aware, unfortunately,  Mr. Goslin was not in a position to fund this litigation and his costs will continue to accrue, as the case is now remanded back to the trial court. Therefore, if you are in a position to be able to help fund this monumental victory, Mr. Goslin would greatly appreciate donations which can be made online through our Firm’s escrow account here – https://secure.lawpay.com/pages/princelaw/trust. Simply place Goslin Appeal in the Matter No/Client Name box.

If you or someone you know has been charged with possessing a weapon on school grounds, contact us today to discuss YOUR rights.

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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

PA Game Commission Preliminarily Approves The Use Of Semiautomatic Rifles and Shotguns While Hunting Big Game, Small Game and Furbearers

After the public hearings that occurred from January 29th through today, January 31, 2017, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced:

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave unanimous preliminary approval to regulatory changes that would permit the use of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns while hunting big game, small game and furbearers. A five-round magazine would be required for all semiautomatic hunting rifles, with the total ammunition capacity limited to six rounds, based on the preliminarily approved measure.

The measure also preliminarily approves the use of air rifles for small-game and furbearers.

Consistent with Firearm Owners Against Crime’s comments and evidentiary submissions to the PA Game Commissioners, the Board stated that

most of those who opposed cited concerns over compromised safety as their primary reason for opposition … [however after] a thorough review of hunter safety in states that allow semiautomatic rifles, including neighboring states and states that most resemble Pennsylvania in terms of hunter density…[t]he review uncovered no evidence the use of semiautomatic rifles has led to a decline in hunter safety in any state where they’re permitted for hunting.

Furthermore, the Board also reviewed the follow regulatory additions/changes:

Semiautomatic rifles in .22 caliber or less that propel single-projectile ammunition and semiautomatic shotguns 10 gauge or smaller propelling ammunition not larger than No. 4 lead – also No. 2 steel or No. 4 composition or alloy – would be legal firearms arms for small-game seasons under a regulation preliminarily approved by the Board of Game Commissioners.

Semiautomatic firearms that propel single-projectile ammunition also would be legal sporting arms for woodchucks and furbearers. There is no caliber restriction for woodchucks or furbearers.

For big game, semiautomatic centerfire rifles and shotguns would be legal sporting arms.

Full-metal-jacket ammunition would continue to be prohibited for deer, bear and elk hunting.

All semiautomatic firearms would be limited to six rounds’ ammunition capacity – magazines can hold no more than five rounds.

Semiautomatics would be legal in seasons in which modern firearms can be used to take deer, black bears, elk and fall turkeys.

Air-guns would be legal for small game in calibers from .177 to .22 that propel single-projectile pellets or bullets, under the regulatory changes preliminarily approved by the Board of Game Commissioners.

For woodchucks and furbearers, air-guns must be at least .22 caliber and propel a single-projectile pellet or bullet. BB ammunition is not authorized for small game, furbearers or woodchucks.

These proposals will be brought up again at the March meeting for a final vote.

 

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Filed under Firearms Law, Hunting

Surreptitious Recording of GOP Meeting Violates Pennsylvania Wiretap Law – But It’s Just a Felony, Right???

To the surprise of many, The Washington Post reported that it obtained a recording of a closed-door meeting of GOP members that occurred on Thursday in the City of Philadelphia. The article even quotes statements made during the closed-door meeting, seemingly ignorant of Pennsylvania’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act.

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to intercept, endeavor to intercept, procure, disclose, endeavor to disclose, use, or endeavor to use an oral communication without that person’s consent. Specifically, 18 Pa.C.S. 5703 provides:

Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if he:

(1)  intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, electronic or oral communication;

(2)  intentionally discloses or endeavors to disclose to any other person the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, electronic or oral communication; or

(3)  intentionally uses or endeavors to use the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, knowing or having reason to know, that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, electronic or oral communication.

While there exists exceptions for law enforcement and other non-applicable bases, the individual who recorded the meeting, anyone who solicited the person to record the meeting, and those individuals and entities which have disclosed and used the recording have clearly committed a felony of the 3rd degree, which permits the individual to be imprisoned for up to 7 years. Moreover, if the individual is a state official or employee, he/she is to be dismissed or removed from office.

Furthermore, there exists civil penalties, which include “actual damages, but not less than liquidated damages computed at the rate of $ 100 a day for each day of violation, or $ 1,000, whichever is higher;” “punitive damages” and “reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred.”

Accordingly, I am calling on Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro to open an investigation into these violation of our laws.

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Lower Merion Township Petitions for Allowance to Appeal in Firearm Preemption Case

As our readers are aware, on December 16, 2016, the Commonwealth Court issued its decision in Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), et al. v. Lower Merion Township, where it held that Lower Merion Township’s preclusion of firearms in township parks was unlawful.

On Friday, January 13, 2017, Lower Merion Township filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which was docketed at 36 MAL 2017. Thereafter, on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, the City of Philadelphia and City of Harrisburg filed amicus curiae briefs with the Court, asking it to grant Lower Merion Township’s request and overturn the Commonwealth Court’s decision. Later today, we will file our Answer in opposition to Lower Merion’s request.

Generally, once our Answer is filed, it will take the PA Supreme Court between 6 to 8 months, if not more, to decide whether to hear Lower Merion’s appeal and if it grants Lower Merion’s appeal, what legal issues it agrees to consider.

If your rights have been violated by an illegal firearm or ammunition ordinance or regulation promulgated by a state agency, county, municipality or township, contact us today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.

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Devastating Decision Regarding Mental Health Commitment Challenges and Firearms Rights

Late last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision in In re: Nancy White Vencil, 90 MAP 2015, which overturned the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s learned decision finding that a challenge, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(g)(2), to the sufficiency of an involuntary commitment was to be de novo, supported by clear and convincing evidence, where the burden was, in essence, to rest with the Commonwealth.

Unfortunately, the PA Supreme Court vacated the decision as it concluded that the Superior Court erred since, in its opinion

the plain language of section 6111.1(g)(2) requires a court of common pleas to review only the sufficiency of the evidence to support the 302 commitment, limited to the information available to the physician at the time he or she made the decision to commit the individual, viewed in the light most favorable to the physician as the original decision-maker to determine whether his or her findings are supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

Although the Court acknowledged that “By legislative design, there is no judicial involvement in the decision to effectuate a 302 commitment and no right to appeal the physician’s decision” and therefore affords no due process (an issue which Mrs. Vencil apparently failed to raise (pdf pg. 18 (declaring “Vencil has not challenged the due process protections provided by Section 302 of the MHPA. Nor has she raised a due process argument in connection with her right to keep and bear arms under the United States and/or Pennsylvania Constitutions)), the Court declared that a trial court is only

to review the physician’s findings, made at the time of the commitment, to determine whether the evidence known by the physician at the time, as contained in the contemporaneously-created records, supports the conclusion that the individual required commitment under one (or more) of the specific, statutorily-defined circumstances.

Interestingly, the Court did not address the sufficiency/review of the requisite records for an involuntary commitment, pursuant to 50 P.S. § 7302 and the implementing regulations. This is likely due to this issue not having been raised and therefore was not considered by the Court.

The Court went on to declare that

The Legislature could have broadly created an appeals process under the MHPA for 302 commitments, but it did not; it could have required a de novo hearing but it did not. Instead, it narrowly provided that under 6111(g)(2) of the Uniform Firearms Act, a petitioner is entitled only to have a trial court review the sufficiency of the evidence upon which the commitment was based.

It is also important to note that the Court recognized in fn. 4 (pdf pg. 7) that the Pennsylvania State Police waived any consideration of the statute of limitations. The Court’s acknowledgment of is somewhat concerning as a specific of statute of limitations has not been enacted by the General Assembly and the Court did not specify what the appropriate statute of limitation is for sufficiency challenges to civil mental health commitments.

It is for these reasons, including the lack of requisite due process, that it is imperative that the General Assembly enact a new law regarding mental health commitment appeals, in compliance with all dictates of due process.

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